ORLANDO, Fla (Reuters) - The mother of accused child killer Casey Anthony offered the startling revelation in court on Thursday that she was the one who searched for information about chloroform on the family’s computer.
Cindy Anthony testified that she was trying to research information on her dog, who had been eating bamboo leaves and not feeling well. She said her search led her from chlorophyll to chloroform, as several types of chlorophyll can produce chloroform.
Previous witnesses at Casey’s first-degree murder trial in Florida have testified they found evidence of what they considered to be a surprisingly large quantity of chloroform, as well as residue from a decomposing human body, in Casey’s car trunk.
Prosecutors accuse Casey, 25, of using duct tape to suffocate her 2-year-old daughter Caylee on June 16, 2008 and then storing the child’s body in the trunk.
Casey and Caylee lived with Casey’s parents, George and Cindy Anthony.
Prosecutor Linda Drane Burdick challenged Cindy’s testimony on Thursday, asking why records showed Cindy was at work on the dates of the Internet searches in March 2008.
Cindy said because she was salaried, her work record often varied from reality.
“We were not supposed to report overtime, so sometimes we’d only work a half day to make up for longer hours,” she said.
Cindy said she previously had given law enforcement and the state attorney’s office the information about her computer searches.
“This is not new,” she said.
The trial is now in its fifth week, and the defense has continued to try to chip away at the prosecution’s case.
Earlier on Thursday, a forensic toxicologist testified that tests done by prosecution experts on air samples from Casey Anthony’s car trunk were marred by errors and departures from correct procedures.
Arpad Vass, a scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and a pioneer in the biochemistry of human decomposition, testified earlier for the prosecution on his analysis of air from the trunk. He concluded that a body likely had been there.
But testifying for the defense, analytical chemist and forensic toxicologist Barry Logan said a research lab like Oak Ridge did not have to adhere to the same stringent protocols as a forensic lab because their missions were different.
A forensic lab tested samples for law enforcement or legal review, while a research lab’s mission is to discover new things, Logan said.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Casey. Their introduction of the air tests is novel scientific evidence that the defense team has challenged.
Defense attorneys maintain Caylee drowned in the family’s backyard pool. Her skeletal remains were found in woods near the Anthony family’s home in the Orlando area on December 11, 2008, following a nationwide search.
Witnesses on Thursday got little time to actually testify on their fields of expertise, as numerous objections from the prosecution, along with extended meetings between the attorneys and judge at the bench, took up much of the morning.
Stephen Shaw, a hair and fiber examiner with the FBI who testified for the prosecution earlier in the month, took the stand again to discuss the science of post-mortem hair banding.
He had analyzed hairs from Casey’s trunk and from the hair mass found with Caylee’s skull. Dozens of slides of hairs from living people and cadavers were again shown to jurors as the defense tried to undermine the effectiveness of the technique used to identify hair from a dead body.
“The science as it stands can’t tell whether a hair comes from a living or dead person,” defense attorney Jose Baez said to Shaw.
“That’s true,” Shaw said.
Still more slides were shown during prosecutor Jeff Ashton’s cross examination, as he attempted to assure jurors that experts could indeed identify hair from a dead body through the microscopic identification of specific dark areas on the hair.
Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Greg McCune